Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue.

Well, this is not the blog post I had planned to write.

I had something all set for the end of January but unfortunately my Dad’s health took a turn for the worst and he ended up in hospital. He was in for a week, and other than on the day he went in, we weren't allowed to visit. They couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong and were worried he was infectious, so he was in isolation.

It turned out to be sepsis and to add insult to injury, literally, the ambulance crew managed to get the trolley stuck trying to load it into the lift at the care home and accidentally broke his shoulder whilst they were freeing it. Not good.

Protocol meant Social Services were informed and procedures had to be gone through, but finally they let Mum visit and eventually Dad was out of hospital. 

He was doing well, eating and refusing to wear his sling (so the care home had to come up with ingenious ways to keep it on!) but all this on top of relentless work deadlines meant blogging was low on the list of my priorities during February. 

By the beginning of March Dad’s health unexpectedly went dramatically down hill again. My Brother and Sister-in-Law were due to go on their lockdown postponed, 30th anniversary cruise, and I was due to be in Munich for work immediately followed by a trip to Durham for a 50th birthday party.In the end I decided I couldn’t be away at the same time as them just in case, and cancelled Munich and Durham.

 So instead of talking to prospective students I sat next to my Dad’s bedside for the day whilst Mum read him Harry Potter. The next day I decided I was in need of some space and some air to breathe. I went for a walk to clear my head and as I was heading home Mum called to say Dad was gone. 

My Brother was in the middle of the ocean unreachable, Himself was isolating having tested positive for covid, and my Mum was in no fit state. Which left me to head home with my Mum and begin all that hard life admin. For someone who will always shy away from things, or put them off for as long as possible it was a hell of a baptism.

I have to say Nephew Number One was an absolute star and helped with some things like clearing Dad’s room at the care home but otherwise it was an awful week. 

There was a 5-week delay until we could have the funeral, so we were in a bit of limbo really. Other than wanting a cremation and saying he wanted the service to be a short, sweet celebration and choosing 3 pieces of music Dad hadn’t left any instructions. He had always been a keen advocate of recycling and sustainability, so we went with a wicker coffin and just one floral display. Asking instead for donations to the local air ambulance, a charity he had always supported. 

Dad had chosen Beethoven’s 6th symphony, music from Harry Potter and Red, Red Wine by Neil Diamond. After much discussion, my brother and I added Endeavour’s Theme. Dad always loved Morse and Endeavour, and independently to each other it seems we are both reminded of him when we hear the theme music. We finished with Barwick Green, or The Archer’s theme tune, another thing Dad enjoyed listening to and a joyous piece of music that summed him up to a tee. 

On the way to the crematorium a single spitfire suddenly appeared and looped the loop in the glorious blue, sun filled sky above us. It felt like a sign. 

My Dad joined the R.A.F at 15 and it was his life. My Nan told the story of taking Dad as a baby with her when she went hop picking during the war. As the Battle of Britain raged in the sky above him, my Dad toddled out and stood open mouthed with wonder watching the dog fights overhead, apparently completely oblivious as shrapnel rained down around him until someone dashed out from where they were sheltering and snatched him back to safety. 

                                                      As a teenage apprentice engine fitter 

He joined up as soon as he could and only left when he had to retire, going straight back to the same job the next day as a civil servant until he was 65. He started out as an engine fitter before training as a navigator, then further training as special air crew, finishing 'flying a desk' organising flypasts and airshows.  

          On his retirement he was given a flight in the last airworthy Lancaster, the smile says it all.
 

It was a beautiful funeral, but I have to say the day broke me. I think the long wait until the day was part of it, but also I was a self confessed Daddy’s girl as a child. As an adult we stayed extremely close, he was my sounding board, my rock and I miss him dreadfully.  

So yes, since then I have had good days and bad days. 

Work has been relentlessly shit this year too, but at the moment I don’t seem to have the energy to do anything about that other than plod on through that. One thing at atime.

Anyway, I have been feeling like getting back to blogging, so normal service will be resumed, it might still be sporadic but then to be fair that has been the case for a while now.


                                                My favourite pictures of Dad as a young man.

Monday, 16 January 2023

December and all that.

 Firstly, a belated very Happy New Year.

As ever my January is proving to be completely crazy workwise (and socially too where I am trying to fit in things that had to be rearranged from December.) so I’m later than I would have liked with this post. I have to say the ongoing train strikes certainly curtailed my social life in December, which for some activities was a bit disappointing, but as I support the strikes 100%, well, it was what it was. 

I was certainly delighted to be given an excuse not to have to go to my work Christmas party! I did go to my departmental Christmas lunch, which was followed by a festive quiz, but otherwise was able to duck out with a valid excuse from any other forced festivities in the workplace.

The month started fairly dramatically. I got back from my Pilates class Thursday evening to numerous missed calls on my phone, I had literally just spotted this when my phone rang again. It was my brother saying my Dad had been taken to hospital and that he was just going to get changed and grab a quick sandwich, he had also been at a (different) Pilates class. He would then come and collect me before we drove to collect my Mum, who had had a glass of wine so couldn’t drive.

I have to say for all the chaos going on with the National Health at the moment thanks to our shit show of a government, I have nothing but praise for how my Dad, and indeed my Mum and I, were looked after. They are still only allowing 2 visitors at a time so because my brother had been with my Dad at the care home until the ambulance arrived, he stayed in the car. 

A&E was absolutely ram packed, with people literally wherever there was space, but the lady at reception still took the time to come out from behind the desk and show us where we needed to go. It was just like you see on the news reports, there were ambulances queued up outside and the corridors were full of people on trolleys either being treated where they were or waiting to be seen. Luckily for us Dad had been given a bay and had already had an MRI as soon as he arrived. The care home had thought he was having another stroke, but his scan apparently showed no signs of this. So, the conclusion of the specialist was he had either had a mini stroke or more likely his symptoms were due to a virus. 

He had the nasty cough and cold that had been doing the rounds. He was in good spirits when we saw him, talking coherently and was even able to describe what had happened. We stayed until the stroke registrar had seen him, done some more tests and agreed that he could go home. Initially we were going to wait until the transport had come for him, but in the end, we left at about 12.45am as my brother and I both had work the next day. As it turns out it was a good job we didn’t wait because the transport didn’t come until 6am! 

I went to see Dad the next afternoon and he was shattered bless him, but otherwise fine. Himself and I went to see Dad again on the Sunday too, he was still tired and coughing but otherwise quite cheerful. We sat eating cake and watched the original Clash of the Titans film on TV, which we all enjoyed. I remember going to see it at the cinema with some school friends when it first came out!

On the Saturday I went over to Witney with Soo, to meet our friend Melissa for a mooch round the shops and a long lazy lunch. We had a lovely day, it was so good to catch up with Melissa and I finished the last bits of my Christmas shopping whilst there, so that was a bonus. I also went out for a lovely long boozy lunch with my friends Simon, Liz and Carole the next week. I wore the lovely Monsoon black embroidered blouse bought in Birmingham. 

I had to go into the office on the 19th to meet some prospective students, so I took the opportunity to have lunch with Charlotte and give her her Christmas pressie whilst in Oxford.

Himself had spotted they had re-released The Muppets Christmas Carol at the cinema. It was a restored version with a song they took out for the original video release back in place it so we had to go. Himself is a huge fan of the film anyway and it’s one of the ones we always watch over the holidays.

On the 23rd we dropped by Nephew Number One’s house and delivered their Christmas presents, I was meant to be working but we were unexpectedly given an extra day of leave = Result! I sat at home and watched It’s a Wonderful Life instead.

We took Dad out for lunch at Prezzo on Christmas Eve, there were 9 of us so it was a bit chaotic but good fun.

I wore this dress I bought in the sale from Sugarhill boutique. It looks a bit shapeless on the hanger but was a dream to wear. I know I will get a lot of wear out of it.
Once we got home, I watched the George C Scott version of A Christmas Carol (My favourite version) and drank fizz. 
Christmas morning, we had a lazy start and opened presents before Mum came round. We headed home with her for a few days but had to come back for the Wednesday as Himself had to work between Christmas and New Year. My brother and his wife came over on Boxing day.
I wore this dress from Seasalt, I had a voucher and it was in the sale so how could I resist?

I popped into Oxford to meet my ex-colleague, Megan on the 28th. I was meant to be meeting her on the 23rd but train strikes, so we did the 28th instead. 
We met for hot chocolate at Knoops as neither of us had been there before. It was AMAZING. I chose a 65% dark Colombian. I do love a hot chocolate in the winter,  but never buy it when out because I find generic café hot chocolate way too sweet. 
The fact that at Knoops you can choose either white, milk or dark, and then a strength percentage is just inspired, I also love how they describe them like wines on their menu. 
It’s super busy all the time and quite small but luckily Megan and her partner Aaron had found a table in a corner as it was pouring with rain that day. Well let’s face it when hasn’t it been pouring with rain lately? But I digress. It was so lovely to catch up with them both and after a couple of hours we went our separate ways. I dived into a couple of shops I specifically wanted to look in and M&S which I hadn’t planned on, and where of course I bought a dress and a cardigan in the sales! and then headed home. 

On the 31st Himself suggested going over to Reading to look round the shops. I haven’t been shopping there since well before lockdown and we had thought of going before Christmas, but, train strikes. The main place I wanted to go to as I had spotted something in the window when we went to the Garth Marenghi show last month was shut sadly so we headed into the main town centre. It hadn’t changed much and we did some browsing. I bought some bits from the haberdashery department in John Lewis but Himself’s main point of call was HMV. I wanted to see if they had a Detectorists boxset (they did so I bought it) I then ambled over to where he was browsing the Metal section in the CDs. The first thing I saw was an album by a band called TNT which I still have on vinyl somewhere and I hadn’t seen for over 30 years, good grief there’s a blast from the past thought I.

 I won’t bore you with names of bands you have likely never heard of but I then spotted another and another, it was honestly like someone had taken notes of my vinyl collection in the late 80’s. I mean I was an avid, avid collector back in the day, and some of these were pretty obscure to say the least! The best bit was the majority of them were £7-£8. Himself actually left me to it and ambled off to the shopping centre toilets as I feverishly flipping through from A-Z, and ended up heading to the tills with an armful of cds! I have to say I have had a blissful couple of weeks playing the likes of Y&T, King Kobra, Armoured Saint, Helloween and Danny Wilde. On closer inspection they were all re-mastered rereleases by a company called Rock Candy. So, I now have their website bookmarked for further updates. My poor wallet. 

We had planned to go for a walk and a drink at our favourite pub The Fleur de Leys on  New Year’s Eve but it absolutely poured with rain all day, so instead we pootled about at home. I hate new year anyway so I’m always happy to stay in.

New Year’s day it had finally stopped raining, so late morning we went for our cancelled walk from the day before. Himself suggested we call in at the Fleur, would it be open I asked? He looked at me like I was insane and said “Of COURSE it will be open!” I had to point out that back in my pub going days I used to go out on NY Eve and was invariably in bed dying on NY Day so didn’t know such things.

 Anyway, he was proved right it was open and doing a roaring trade in late breakfasts. We only planned on having one pint and managed to nab a table from a group of 4 people with assorted musical instruments who were moving to a bigger table that had opened up in the corner. As we drank, a steady trickle of people with some manner of instrument case or another arrived and sure enough a jam started. It was an eclectic mix of sea shanties and traditional local folk tunes, mostly without singing. 


There was something so cosy and uplifting about it, so, we bought another drink and another and another. We finally headed home at 6pm and by then they had taken over the whole bottom end of the pub and some were even in the corridor to the toilets! An unexpected and thoroughly delightful way to start the new year.

I got some books for Christmas

which have already been added to the book mountain by my bed.

As usual I will end the post by sharing my reading list from 2022. As you may recall last year I discovered Elly Griffiths and quickly devoured the whole Ruth Galloway series. I was a bit bereft when done so imagine my delight when I discovered she had written another series! 

I had set myself the target of 50 books and as mentioned in previous posts 2022 proved a difficult year for my mental health, so I ended up reading more because it's a way of switching off and blocking out the world. I didn't award any 5/5 ratings but I certainly read more 3's and 4's this year.

The Dead of Winter – Nicola Upson 3
The Night She Disappeared -  Lisa Jewell 3
A Beautiful Spy – Rachel Hore 2
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books -  Martin Edwards 4
The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo 2
Home Stretch – Graham Norton 3
The Call of the Curlew – Elizabeth Brooks 2
Saving Missy – Beth Morrey 3
The Devil’s Breath – Tessa Harris 3
Around the World in 80 Cliches – Laura Lees 3
Older and Wider : A Survivors Guide to the Menopause – Jenny Eclair 3
Because of You – Dawn French 3
Cheddar Gorge, A Book of English Cheeses – Ernest Sheppard 2
Old Baggage – Lissa Evans 3
The Midnight Library – Matt Haigh 4
The Moving Tot Shop – Edwin Crispin 2
The Man in the Queue – Josephine Tey 1
The Two Houses – Fran Cooper 3
Holding the Home Front: The Women’s Land Army in WW1  - Caroline Scott 3
The Lamplighters – Emma Stonex 4
A Kind of Magic : Art Deco Vanity Cases – Sarah Hue-Williams 4
Maiden Voyages : Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Travelled and Worked Aboard Them  - Sian Evans 4
The Man Who Died Twice – Richard Osman 4
The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths 3
The Postscript Murders – Elly Griffiths 4
The Zig Zag Girl – Elly Griffiths 3
Fashion in the 70s : The Definitive Sourcebook Emmanuelle Dirix 3
Smoke and Mirrors – Elly Griffiths 3
The Art of Winnie the Pooh :How E H Shepard Illustrated and Icon – James Campbell 3
The Blood Card – Elly Griffiths 3
The Vanishing Box – Elly Griffiths 4
Now You See Them- Elly Griffiths 3
The Bone Code – Kathy Reichs 3
Absolutely – Joanna Lumley 2
Should I Tell You? – Jill Mansell 3
Blood Orange – Harriet Tyce 2
Lily – Rose Tremain 2
The Strawberry Thief – Joanne Harris 4
The Summer of the Danes – Ellis Peters
The Hunting Party – Lucy Foley 3
The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton 4
A is for Arsnic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie – Kathryn Harkup 4
The Golden Thread : How Fabric Changed History – Kassia St Clair 4
American Hair Metal – Steven Blush 3
The Locked Room – Elly Griffiths 3
Friend Request – Laura Marshall 3
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music – Dave Grohl 3
The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde 2
The Creek – L J Ross 2
The Paris Apartment – Lucy Foley 4
The Beloved Girls – Harriet Evans 4
Wanderers : A History of Women Walking – Kerri Andrews 4
Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney 2
Apples never Fall – Liane Moriarty 4
Trick of the Dark – Val McDermid 3
Magpie Lane – Lucy Atkins 4
Christmas Traditions: A Celebration of Festive Lore – George Goodwin 3
One Moonlit Night – Rachel Hore 3

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Belated November Round-up

 Well November turned out to be as busy as I expected it to be. 

It started with going to the cinema to see the second Black Panther film Wakanda Forever. Overall, I did enjoy it, though it was too long. I have to say the tribute to Chadwick Boseman at the start did have me tearing up.

That week was also my Dad’s birthday and my parents anniversary so on the Sunday we collected Dad from his care home and took the pair of them out for lunch at a local pub. We had a lovely time and Dad thoroughly enjoyed himself. I asked him what to drink and he instantly asked for a large glass of Merlot so that is what he got! We were all absolutely stuffed afterwards so as my brother was with us too he pushed Dad back to the care home with Mum and Himself and I went for a long walk to burn off a few of the calories we had just eaten.

The next week I went to the theatre twice. The first time was at a little arts venue in Reading to see the comedian Matt Holness in his spoof character, the narcissistic horror writer Garth Marenghi (a tongue in cheek Stephen King/Shaun Hutson mash-up). 

It’s 20 years since he first created the character and I know it best from the short but hilarious series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace which aired on Channel 4 in 2004, which I loved. 

Himself and I sat and re-watched the whole series before we went, and thankfully it has held up well due to it being deliberately made to look cheap and clunky. We went on the first night of the tour and it started with Garth doing a reading from his new novel ‘Terrortome’ which had the whole place roaring with laughter. If you have ever read a horror novel from the late 70’s – 80’s they definitely had a certain style and it was a perfect parody. The second half of the show was very brave as Matt did a Q&A in character with a member of the audience picked out to come on stage with him and field the questions. This relied on members of the audience knowing his work as 'Garth' very well and also on them being prepared to play along and think up questions, you also risked the chance of getting someone not so great on stage with you. As it was a small sold-out venue packed with fans, and the fact Matt Holness is incredible at off the cuff quick repartee it did work on this occasion, but I suspect he may change the format as the tour progressed. 

This was followed by a book signing of Terrortome, again as Garth (though Himself did bring along another book which Garth 'allowed' Matt to sign!) Our copy of Terrortome was dedicated with ‘May all your eggs be poached in soup’ which is a reference to one of my favourite scenes in Dark Place.

Interestingly the tour was at smaller sized venues around the UK and sold out completely within 48 hours of the tickets going on sale, so it has now been extended into next year with a whole new set of dates at large theatres.

The following day I went to see The Mousetrap at the New Theatre in Oxford with my friend Charlotte. It’s the 3rd time I’ve seen it now, though it has been many years since the last time. It was good, though this cast did play it too much for laughs for my liking, making it like a pantomime in a oh no he didn’t oh yes he did vein. The play has comic moments in it, but should also have a constant level of menace. It was sad to see the theatre was only about half full. I’m guessing a combination of covid and the cost of living having an effect. 

That weekend I took myself out for a slightly muddier than I expected walk to test my new walking boots. Yes, I have new walking boots! There is a tale to tell as well.

At the start of the month my brother was going to have his covid booster at the football stadium in Oxford and decided to call in at one of those huge outdoor clothing/camping shops on the way, so I cadged a lift. I tried on several pairs of boots including the ones I finally bought, they were by far the most comfortable, so they were the ones I went for in the end. I also picked up a waterproof jacket as I have a lightweight and heavyweight jacket but nothing in between and it was reduced to £35. When we got to the till my brother paid because he gets a membership discount and also had another 15% off code. I put my two things down and the lad scanned them first so we could easily work out how much I owed my brother later. We were running late at this point, so my brother quickly paid, and we shot off though I did think at the time it seemed rather cheap even with the discounts. When we can to work the bill out later it showed that the walking boots had scanned through as 0.00 on the bill!

So I got a free pair of boots, my brother was livid though he did say he should take me shopping with him more often. Thankfully, the boots are extremely comfortable because it’s not like I can really take them back.   

Talking of boosters I also got my flu jab and covid booster in November thankfully 2 weeks apart, I didn’t fancy having both at the same time. When I got my covid booster I bumped into someone I used to work with so we spent our 15 minute sit down afterwards having a good catch up.

 

On the 24th I went to see the Carole King musical Beautiful with Soo. We had tickets to go and see it with our friend Melissa during the first lockdown so had been waiting patiently for it to come round again. Sadly, Melissa was poorly on the night and we weren’t able to find anyone to take her ticket at such short notice, so it was just Soo and I. We went for a beer first because I had had ‘A Day’ at work and needed to decompress a bit and followed this with delicious pizza at Franca Manca. The musical was just as good as I remembered it but again sadly not a sold-out venue.   

 Himself and I ended the month going to see the film Living. I had wanted to see it since I saw the trailer but even more so after Charlotte said she had been to see it and loved it. Himself is not a huge fan of Bill Nighy but he thoroughly enjoyed it too.

In terms of purchases this month. There may have been a couple of bags... 


The tiger print dress I had fallen in love with and ordered to wear for our anniversary arrived sadly too late, but I love it on so it’s a keeper.

 I also had a voucher so bought a couple of dresses from the label Finery. I have a few of their dresses now after falling in love with a blue star print dress a couple of years ago which has been a firm favourite every since. I can't show them as one is in the wash and one in the ironing mountain! 

I also finally found a new camera with good reviews and a price tag that didn’t give me heart failure. Himself set it up and charged it but the handbook could be written in double Dutch for all the sense it makes so I need to look up and see if there is a video guide on YouTube or something! In fact this is why this blog post is late becuse I couldn't figure out how to take pictures to go with it. I'm such a technophobe!

Talking of new technology, I have been in complete denial all year that I am going to have to replace my trusted phone. As of next March, they are turning off the 3G network so it will no longer work. Sad times indeed. 

I have finally accepted that research needs to be done and think I have identified a replacement. I will finally have to have a smart phone for my home life (I have one for work) SIGH. As I only make calls, send texts, take the odd picture here and there, oh and use whatsapp I have no need for an all singing and dancing phone. I also resent having to pay hundreds of pounds for something like a phone. Ridiculous. 

So at some point I will have to do the deed and go to the phone store, if nothing else I need a new Sim card as mine is an old style one that no longer fits 'modern' phones.        

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Busy October.

 Well October has been a bumper month. 

It started off with a long overdue catch up with Soo when we took ourselves off to the university owned Harcourt Arboretum. We had a lovely day mooching around enjoying the autumnal sunshine and colours, as well as a good catch up on all our news. 


From there we took ourselves off to Notcutts Garden Centre for a late lunch of delicious homemade soup. They were busy setting up their Christmas wonderland which seemed just a bit too early for me. I get that some people want to spread the cost etc but over two months early?

 We met again two days later in Oxford. We were planning to go to the cinema with our friend Simon to see 'Mrs Harris Goes to Paris'. The idea was to have dinner first then go to the cinema. I suggested we go to the cinema and buy the tickets first just in case we ran out of time, as we had chosen to eat at Cote and they aren’t always the speediest with their service. 

So, we walked round to the cinema and found it was closed due to a power failure! We quickly checked the other cinemas in Oxford, but none had the film on, disappointed we took ourselves to the pub instead. We went to White Rabbit which back in the day used to be a biker pub The Gloucester Arm where I spent many an evening drinking. From there we headed to Cote and had a leisurely dinner with lost of gossip and laughter. 

I then saw Simon again at the end of the week when we went out for lunch with our friends Liz and Carole. A lovely afternoon that ended with us battling home through torrential rain. I had bought some bits in the Body Shop on my way down and the paper bag had completely disintegrated by the time I got home leaving me clutching wet bottles and papery mush, nice.   

The following weekend I was on a work trip to Frankfurt. My colleague and I decided to fly out on the Friday and home again on the Saturday evening, right after the recruitment event we were attending. This was mostly because there were no decent timed flights home on the Sunday, they were either stupid o’clock in the morning or into the evening, we both had afternoon plans for Sunday which we preferred not to miss. It did mean I had to get up at 5.30am to factor in a train the Reading then a coach to Heathrow. I’ll be interested to see what difference the new Elizabeth Line makes once the rest of it finally opens. I should be able to go directly from Reading the Heathrow on that. 

It felt very strange to be at the airport again and even getting on a plane again after so long. Thankfully it was a quick and painless process as we only had hand luggage.

We finally arrived at our hotel at about 3.30pm, it turned out to be a very chi-chi boutique hotel where you had to take the lift up to the roof top bar to check-in. Yes, you literally checked-in via an I-Pad embedded into the bar’s surface whilst people were being served cocktails around you! Once checking in your room card dropped into a little tray at the bottom of the bar, it took a while to figure that one out, I’m seriously too old for this shit...it was very confusing. Maybe a cocktail would have helped! 

Our rooms were tiny but extremely comfortable. I have to say whoever designed them was inspired, every inch of space was carefully utilized. 

 Having said that, these were not the smallest ones available, we had deliberately not chosen one of those. I must confess I wouldn’t want to have been in anything smaller and I’m not sure I would have wanted to stay more than a couple of nights so limited was the space, but then I’m not exactly a tiny person so that might have had something to do with it. I was practically hanging out of the window to take the shot above, I love how the clever use of mirrors in the room makes it look like I was miles away!

We headed straight out to grab some food as we were both starving, we hadn’t bothered to eat more than a snack at Heathrow, planning to have lunch when we arrived but hadn’t anticipated it would take quite so long to get from the airport to the city centre.


Once we were fed, we spent the next few hours doing some sightseeing. To be honest there isn’t a lot to see in Frankfurt, the majority is modern and industrial, so we were able to see what we wanted to in one afternoon and evening. Sadly, it poured with rain the whole time, but we didn’t let that put us off.

For dinner we met two of my colleague’s university friends (she studied in Heidelberg) who both lived near to Frankfurt. They not only graciously included me in their evening, but spoke English the whole time too so I didn’t feel left out. The also recommended the most amazing restaurant, it was like being sat in the middle of a forest.

 I ate the most delicious vegan mushroom and caramelised onion burger with sweet potato fries, it came with a cocktail in a glass the size of a small bucket. I had forgotten the generous drink sizes you get in Germany! 

We had a lovely evening dampened (literally) only by the fact the rain was absolutely torrential by the time we left. My umbrella was actually dripping water from inside by the time we got back to the hotel, so all my clothes were wet and the bottom of my dress was soaked. I ended up draping stuff wherever I could in the teeny tiny room in the hopes it would be dry by the morning…it wasn’t.

Thankfully we had a late start the next day as we didn’t need to arrive for set up until 11.30am. We met at 9am and headed out to find some breakfast. It’s a good job we did go that early as it turns out as we ended up walking round for ages trying to find somewhere to eat. On arrival we found the café we had originally picked only accepted cash and I was using the company credit card. We ended up going to the food court of a shopping mall where we found a restaurant that had a serve yourself breakfast buffet. I got to eat fresh brotchen, which I haven’t had since I was last in Germany as a teenager, scrambled eggs and two flavours of fresh fruit yoghurt. I also just had to sample the schoko sahne pudding to see if that still tasted the same as I remembered, happily it did so I went back for seconds! We both pinched a croissant for later which I wrapped in napkins and stuck in my handbag. I then proceeded to completely forget all about them, so they were as flat as a pancake when we did finally eat them that evening at the airport. Flat but still delicious. 

We headed back to the hotel in the rain and checked out, did our event and shot out promptly at 4.30pm to catch the train back to the airport. The underground system in Frankfurt is the most confusing thing ever,  and even with one of us a native German speaker we got hopelessly mixed up. We finally found the right train and as it turned out our flight was delayed anyway. By the time we landed at Heathrow I just missed a coach, like literally by 3 minutes, so frustrating! I had to wait another 40 minutes which meant by the time I got to Reading I then had to wait 25 for a train home. I finally crawled in at 10.45pm, unpacked all my soggy clothes, had a glass of wine and went to bed.

I only bought two things whilst in Frankfurt. We had stopped by one shop to comment on all the Christmas decorations when I spotted some Snoppy bits, it's a skill I have and I can from quite some distance. I dived in the door and ended up buying one glass decoration

Linus - my favourite character from the Peanuts cartoons. I also bought a postcard with a cartoon red elephant trumpeting on it.

The next day my cousin drove my aunt and uncle up to visit my Dad and 9 of us went out for Sunday lunch at the local pub where they do a carvery. It was delicious and so lovely to see them all again and catch up on family news. 

The following Saturday I met my friend Alex in Birmingham. It was a bit last minute so we were both booked onto specific trains that only left us with about 5 hours. That flew by in what felt like moments. We had coffee and a catch up before a walk along the canal, then popped into a small vintage fair at the Custard Factory where I managed to buy a pair of sunglasses and 2 handbags. 

From there we decamped to Comptoir Libanais for lunch, they don’t have one in Liverpool and Alex was missing their tapas. We were going to go for a drink afterwards but realised we had completely run out of time. It turned out loads of trains were cancelled, including my train, so Alex dashed off for hers and I mooched around the shops upstairs at Birmingham New Street. I found a gorgeous dress in the Monsoon sale that was too small, a lovely shirt that wasn't, see below.

I bought a dinosaur Christmas tree decoration in Flying Tiger and also a scarf with red squirrels on it in Fat Face that on inspection of the label turned out to be made from recycled plastic bottles. 

I then headed back downstairs to buy a drink in M&S and went to find the next train to Oxford. It was very delayed, and ram packed with people. Not only was the football on but there had been something on at the NEC too so I stood in an aisle for a bit then managed to snag a seat. I had a great book with me so didn’t mind the journey and thankfully only had a short wait at Oxford for my train home. Himself and I had planned to go out for dinner at the pub in the next village to us, but thankfully hadn’t booked anything as I finally got home well after 7pm, so we would never have made it in time. Instead, we went straight back out to Sainsburys to do the food shop then cracked open a bottle of wine when we got back.

On the Sunday Himself was doing podcast stuff so I took myself out for a walk and went via my brother’s house to drop in some bits and pieces and a big bag of windfall cooking apples. I was just thinking about leaving when there was the most tremendous storm with thunder and lightning and pouring rain so I stayed for another cup of tea instead and cadged a lift home. 

It was our 25th nonniversay on the 31st October, so on the 29th we booked dinner at the pub we had planned to go tot the week before. We left the house at 5.30pm to go and do the village's Halloween trail before our dinner reservation at 7.30pm. 

We have been walking the trail for the last few years as it’s usually great fun with some people properly going to town with their themed decorating. This year it was much smaller and all a bit meh. There were some good houses but it felt like it was mostly cheap plastic stuff from Poundland just strewn about with no real thought, very disappointing. 

This one did make me chuckle though

We ended up at the pub very early, Himself had suggested tacking a walk along the old railway line and looping back but as it was very muddy under foot I declined. 

This was the pub's contribution to the trail (with my travel companion Malcolm Monkey astride the pumpkin in his undertaker's hat.)

Luckily our table was ready, and we had a drink first before eating. I had the most delicious lamb shank with mash (Himself hates lamb and I love it, so I nearly always order it when we are out.) He contented himself with local sausages with the mash swapped out for chips (because he also hates mash. Remind me again why we have been together 25 years?)  The pub is exactly a mile from our house so we got to walk our food off a little bit heading home. Once in I lit candles and our various Halloweeny lights to give us an atmosphere whilst we drank wine and watched the Halloween special of Psychoville and Sherlock Holmes - The Last Vampyre.

These light up tins were from M&S, I couldn't resist them. 

I visited my Dad on the Sunday with my Mum. My brother and his wife arrived whilst we were there so my Dad was in his element surrounded by lots of company. 

On our actual anniversary we both had the day off work and caught the train to London. First, we headed to Kensington, had a bit of a walk and then visited Leighton House which has recently reopened after a refurbishment. It was the home of Frederic, Lord Leighton an eminent Victorian artist and is now a museum and art gallery.


From there we headed to Hampstead where we walked around the outside of Hampstead Heath to The Old Bull and Bush for a late lunch. 

After we had finished eating we caught the tube back into the centre of London and did a quick call in at the Lego store, then it was back onto the underground to Euston, where Himself tried in vain to find a pub he wanted to take me too.We walked and walked then ended up doubling back before he decided it must be a place we had already passed but appeared to have had a complete refurb. It was absolutely pouring with rain by this point, and we had forgotten an umbrella so I was holding my denim jacket over my head and still getting soaked. Instead we decamped to Guy Ritchie’s pub Lore of the Land and had a couple of eye wateringly expensive drinks (and believe me we’re used to expensive living near Oxford!) before deciding to head home, because it was still raining and it was a Monday. 

We popped into Sainsburys at Paddington and I bought myself a little bottle of prosecco for the train. Luckily there was a fast train ready to go so by 9pm we were both showered and drinking prosecco in our PJs, because we are so rock and roll. 

I had ordered myself a new dress with tigers on it for the day. This dress in fact.

Seen here hanging up to dry after being washed because when I unpacked it on arrival it smelt nasty. Sadly it didn't arrive in time so I wore an old favourite instead.

I also continued with my Halloweeny purchases. All these are from Erstwilder apart from the black festive tree which is by the ever talented Claire at Dolly Cool. 

The pumpkin brooch was a free gift if you spent a certain amount and as I was going to buy stuff anyway it was a no brainer really. I wore the cat earrings to London. The ghost cat brooch glows in the dark.

And that's it for October. November is already shaping up busy too, with my Dad's birthday, my parents anniversary, the cinema and 2 theatre trips lined up. My first theatre outings since before covid! 

More anon.   





Saturday, 8 October 2022

September has Come and Gone.

 So September. The weather finally broke – Huzzah. Being fair skinned I’ve never been very good in heat, but throw the menopause into the heady mix, and it’s a one way ticket to meltsville via heat induced spontaneous combustion! So yes, I’m all about the more bearable weather. 

Just before we headed to Bournemouth I not only has a recruitment fair in London to attend I also had a work related drinks reception at the Ashmolean Museum. This was for the out going class and their families and ended up being over 900 people, it was completely mental, spread over 4 levels of the museum with drinks and snacks involved. It was hot, tightly packed and incredibly noisy, with lots of museum staff poised to pounce due to said drinks and snacks in close proximity to priceless exhibits. I’ve never really understood the idea of drinks receptions in museums, but I guess it’s a way to diversify and make money? After getting hemmed in a couple of times and failing to even get close to scoring a drink, I volunteered to relieve colleagues on the registration desk, which meant a bit of relative quiet, a breeze from the open door and more importantly a sit down. 

The next day I had an extra day off work before we headed off on holiday, mainly to run errands and pack. I also took the opportunity to sort out my wardrobe which was back at that point of not being able to fit anything else in it any more. I’ve gone up a size since lockdown so I was quite brutal with the things I can no longer fit in, and know realistically I’ll probably never wear again. There were other things I couldn’t bear to get rid of, so I just moved them to the back in the hopes I will get my arse in gear and lose some weight. 

The day we headed to Bournemouth the weather was very mixed. Thankfully it stayed dry for the walk to the train station. There is something quite nice about being sat inside a speeding train when the rain is hammering against the windows isn’t there? I had a huge hot tea to drink and a good book to read = bliss.

Whilst we were on the train the guesthouse called to check when we were arriving. They had also emailed me three times that week to check when we were arriving, so clearly there was a lack of communication somewhere along the line! Anyway, I confirmed again we would arrive for the start of Check-in at 2pm and the voice on the phone said he should be there to meet us in person, but they would let me know if they were called away. We arrived at about 12.30, the plan being to walk from the station in Bournemouth to the seafront and eat the sandwiches I had packed for us on the beach. We did manage this, in the teeth of a howling gale which wasn’t quite what I had envisaged when I had the plan.

Whilst at the beach my phone rang again and it was the guy from the guesthouse saying he had been called away, but our room was all ready and he would send me the details of how to let ourselves in. It started to rain again at this point so we decided as the room was ready now we would head straight there.

We arrived and had the fun of me trying to read the instructions on how to activate the keypad to get in without my glasses, whilst Himself scanned his palm then typed in numbers. Once inside the front door, our room turned out to be up 3 flights of stairs at the top of the house. Here we found the door had a key safe on the outside, so another code gave us the key to let ourselves into the room and inside was our keycard for the front door. All very high tech!

The description had said full breakfast included but this actually turned out to be a room downstairs with a fridge, toaster and kettle and basic provisions to make your own tea, toast and cereal. So not exactly what we had expected. In fact, we never actually saw any staff the whole time we were there, it was quite bizarre. Our room wasn’t serviced, I just got a text 3 days in to our stay to ask if there was anything we needed!

With hindsight I would not stay there again, not because of that, but because it was slap bang in the middle of town and on the same street as a bar and nightclub. I was woken up and then kept awake until daylight by drunken revellers and taxis with their engines running and frankly I’m too old for that shit.

 The weather on the Thursday was very windy with heavy showers so we headed into town and mooched the shops, well what’s left of them. Bournemouth town centre is sadly rundown, even more so than last year. I come to the conclusion it’s because the majority are huge units which once empty are hard to fill again. It seems to me that high streets with smaller shop fronts seem to fair better when it comes to regeneration.

We decamped to the pub.

Our first night tradition is to get chips and eat them on the beach watching the sun go down, but as it was pouring again we decided to go the Harry Ramsden’s and sit in. 

From there we could see the pier and it was via their rolling screen that we read the Queen had died. The sad news kind of fitted with the weather. I’m neither one way or the other with royalty, but it’s kind of weird to think a figurehead who has been there my whole life has now gone. As someone tweeted, James Bond is no longer on her majesty’s secret service…

 We walked back to the guesthouse via Tesco Metro for a bottle of wine and encountered this art installation outside the library called Airship Orchestra. 

It was very cool. I loved the chilled atmosphere, with changing lights and very chilled music. A local café had taken the initiative to stay open late serving juice and hot chocolate to the children, and beer and wine to the adults. As you can imagine they were doing a roaring trade! 

The next day we had planned to catch the bus to Swanage and do a circular walk from the high street to Dancing Ledge, then mooch round lovely Swanage before our dinner booking at a restaurant in Poole we wanted to try.

We sat on the top of the open topped bus on the way there so of course it started raining, but we had wet weather gear and it wasn’t too heavy so all was good. Unlike the woman in front of us who opened an umbrella which was instantly mangled the minute the bus picked up speed!

For the start of the walk it absolutely hammered down for about 10 minutes then stopped. Half an hour later it did it again, but again stopped, this was basically the theme for the day. The walk passes through Dalston Country Park which seemed very beautiful from what we saw of it. 

Whilst there I spotted a sign for the South-West Coastal Park which pointed towards Dancing Ledge so even though it wasn’t our planned route I said let’s go this way.

Himself demurred but I insisted….

As I said to him later, when it comes to the South-West Coastal Path that’s twice I’ve done this now with disastrous consequences. I’ve given him permission that if I ever say it would be a good idea to walk some of it again, just please tell me to shut the fuck up.

 So, it was fine at first other than the wind and occasional heavy rain. Then the path narrowed and got slightly hilly but was still fine. It was a couple of miles in that we hit the mud, all kinds of mud. Thick coating mud that clagged your boots and made them weigh a tonne. Lethal slippery mud that made it near impossible to stay upright. Cold , wet, oozing mud that soaked through your boots, you name it we had to pass through it. By this point we had gone too far to go back.

The going got tough very, very tough, not helped by the weather. We were covered in mud by this time and as we were too far along to be able to turn back, we agreed we would have to head to the shops in Poole to buy clean clothes and change before dinner. Himself was quite rightly livid with me and stomped off ahead.

I managed to lose my footing trying to climb a slope that was basically a mud slide and slid all the way back down again on my hands and one knee. By this point the rain was literally horizontal and frankly I could have sat down and bawled my eyes out, but I ploughed on.

I caught Himself up and grizzled at him for not even noticing I had fallen over, so we paused for me to try and clean myself up and to take stock. We figured we had to be fairly close to our destination after all this time and effort so gritted our teeth and carried on. I fell over again, this time sliding onto my backside, but finally there was light at the end of the tunnel in the shape of a sign post saying we had half a mile to go. With renewed hope we rounded a corner and were faced with a vertical slope. The water and mud was pouring down it like a river, there was no way we would get up it and  there was no way we could face trying to go all the way back. In desperation I edged sideways along the cliff and by chance I spotted a rough track to one side where the goats & sheep who roam the hillsides had gone before us. We figured it was that or nothing so cautiously we managed to scramble up by grabbing handfuls of grass and praying they would take our weight and not send us plummeting back down, thankfully they did. We made it to Dancing Ledge. I could have cried again.

I tried to clean myself up a bit whilst Himself went down to take a look at it.

We then trudged wearily up the hillside, with plenty of stops for me and my poor unfit lungs until we got to the summit. 

From there we firmly took the track we were meant to have followed in the first place back to Swanage. Once there we decamped to some public toilets to clean up a bit. My poor walking boots, beloved veterans of many adventures, had given up the ghost part way through. So I was shuffling about with one sole flapping and soaking wet feet. We bought a drink and an ice cream to celebrate but didn’t really have the time to do much browsing of shops because the walk had taken so long, also I’m not sure we would have been very welcome in our filthy state. Having said that I did spy this lovely pendant in the window of a shop called Crystals and it was half price so I did step in there to buy it. It reminded me of stormy seas which seemed quite appropriate  Himself also got a couple of bottles of local beer in another shop.

Back on the open topped bus we went upstairs again but the rain became torrential so we quickly headed back downstairs. I have no idea why they run open topped buses in that weather, the rain was pouring down the stairs in a river and soon the downstairs was under a few inches of water which sloshed about as the bus went round corners and poured out of the doors when it stopped to let people on and off!

As we were on the chain-link ferry we looked up how far the shop in the centre of Poole were from where the bus would stop. Another epic fail on my part as I hadn’t realised how big Poole is and that where the bus stops at Poole harbour was actually over 3 miles away from the shops! Neither of us could face walking another 3 miles in the torrential wind and rain so Himself suggested we cancel our dinner reservation, head back to the B&B, where we could get showered and into fresh clothes then find somewhere in Bournemouth to eat instead. I was only too happy to agree. 

In the end I threw out my poor boots, my socks and leggings, and Himself threw out his jeans (which were thankfully an old tatty pair) because they were frankly beyond getting clean again.

Luckily for us we managed to get a table at a little Italian restaurant just round the corner from the B&B where we filled up on pasta and pizza and much wine. What a day. 

The next day I was due to have my annual catch up with my friend Alison. She had suggested meeting at Westbourne for a browse of the shops and some lunch. At last the weather had decided to play ball and was gorgeously sunny and warm. We went down to make some breakfast and whilst there another young couple came in, the first other people we had seen at the place so far! They came in with a Sainsbury’s shopping bag which they unpacked, clearly they had been out to buy extras to supplement the white bread for toast and only 3 kinds of cereal on offer. Thankfully we had pretty much finished because the girl wedged some manner of massive bread roll into the toaster and promptly tripped the electric!

Himself and I took a leisurely stroll to Westbourne and as we had arrived with time in hand looked at some of the shops. Of course I had to spot the most amazing pair of boots!, which of course I didn’t need, so of course I had to try them on, and yes you’ve guessed it, I was instantly smitten. Himself pointed out that you are allowed to treat yourself when you are on holiday because he knew there was no way I was not going to buy them, and I assume wanted to bypass the guilt tripping I would inevitably do afterwards.

Dear reader they have my heart because not only do I love the look of them, but they are so SO damn comfortable (always a big consideration the older you get.)

We met Alison and after a quick catch up Himself went off to do his thing and we had a blissful browse of charity shops and anything else that caught our fancy. Westbourne’s main shopping thoroughfare is absolutely booming. It was lovely to see it so busy with people and full of little independent shops, like the place I got my boots which were all doing a roaring trade.

We had lunch in the most fabulous little café called Delish that I cannot recommend highly enough. Run by two ex-British Airways staff who met while working on a flight to Delhi (hence the name) the food was incredible, as was the free sample of fudge that came with our drinks. I will definitely go back.

We decided we should probably walk our lunch off so moved the car before ambling down Branksome Chine, along the seafront, through the formal gardens and back again. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time for Alison to go. I caught up with Himself on the beach where one of the two reasons I had found it so hard to find a B&B became clear, the national beach volleyball championships were on!

We headed back to the B&B and because the weather was so lovely got changed for dinner early before walking along the cliff top to Boscombe for a drink at the Harvester there which is on the Beach by the pier.

A couple of years ago the council in Bournemouth trialed using goats to keep the vegetation in check on the cliff face along the seafront and it worked so well they got a load more. I’d forgotten until we passed one part and spotted some. 

It’s a wonderful idea which I applaud wholeheartedly apart from one thing. I’m not sure what breed of goat they are, some have the most incredible horns, but dear lord above they absolutely stink to high heaven in the heat! Definitely not so nice when you are out for a stroll and the wind happens to be in your direction. Every so often you would be viciously slapped around the face by the pungent aroma and sure enough there were some goats munching away on the cliff-side. Having said that I guess it is a small price to pay against the good work they do and the lack of wildfires since they have been there. 

After our drink we walked back along the beach to the other Harvester at Alum Chine which is also right on the beach. It happened to be a full moon that night too so it really was wonderful to sit and watch the sun go down and the full moon come up over the sea.  We had planned to go out for a few drinks at The Anvil but it was fairly late when we left and I couldn’t be arsed to walk right to the other side of town after what had been a day full of walking already. We had wine back at our room anyway so instead we headed back and drank that. 

And just like that our trip was over. Checkout was by 11am. So we got up early, had our toast and went for a walk up and down Alum and Branksome chines before heading back and packing. To get there we had to walk through a little park on the cliff top and the second reason I hadn't been able to find many rooms to book became clear, there was a huge Triathlon on! 

When we were ready to leave, we just well left. The checkout instructions said you had to leave the keycard in the room, close and lock the door leaving the room key in the key safe on the door. So again we left without seeing a soul. 

There was a small Sunday craft market on which we had a look around and bought a couple of bits including this chain of felt elephants.

Before sitting in the park people watching and eating one last ice cream then walking to the station. Due to Oxford Station being closed, the train actually terminated at our stop so no need to even change trains going home. I bought a huge tea and a copy of Dorset Life magazine that came with a free copy of Coast Magazine included, these kept me fully occupied on the journey home.      

When we walked into town to get groceries the next morning I spotted these bongos for Himself in a charity shop window, well they did have elephants on them! 

Himself shot in to see how much they were, at £13 for the pair it was a done deal. We asked if we could pay for them and collect them later but were told no because if we didn’t come back technically they can’t re-sell them. Instead the lady said she would put them aside for 30 minutes which gave us enough time to do our food shop and buy them on the way back.

The next week went to the cinema to see See How They Run, which was entertaining enough with some laugh out loud moments.

 

I’m still working from home 3 days a week and happened to look up on one day to see a cat sitting staring at me, a bit of a surprise seeing as we don’t own a cat. I picked him up and popped him out of the front door before heading to the post office with the sales I had made on Ebay after my wardrobe tidy.

 I’ve been feeling very autumnal and Halloweeny recently so bought myself these two tops, in fact I took the skeleton shirt with me to Bournemouth. 


I spotted these skeleton earrings when I was out with my Mum and just had to buy them. They are articulated and covered in rhinestones.